Hmmm... that's interesting.

Articles and other literary ticklers.

My Photo
Location: Mandaluyong, Philippines

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Scariest Fashion Trends Ever
6 trends we hope never -- ever! -- come back into style.

By Sasha Emmons

C'mon, you wore them. You know you did! There aren't many among us who can't recall a few cringe-worthy faux pas as we rode a trend toward fashion infamy. Here, we recall the worst of the worst -- and offer recommendations to make sure you never ever go down that road again.

1. Acid-Wash and Ripped Jeans

There's nothing like a pair of comfortable, worn-in jeans -- but this worn? In the '80s, your choices were jeans that looked like bleach had spilled on them, or jeans that looked like you tussled with a shredder. Nothing much looked good with them. And neither provided the clean, vertical lines that make legs look long.

Nowadays, we know the look that flatters almost everyone: Dark rinse, bootcut jeans that sit slightly lower than the waist.

2. Shoulder Pads

Maybe it was armor for busting through that glass ceiling. Or maybe women were trying to fit into the male-dominated workplace by looking like linebackers. Whatever the reason, shoulder pads -- the kind that added an inch or more of height -- were very, very wrong.

That doesn't mean shoulder pads should be banished into fashion oblivion. In fact, if you are round-shouldered, you might find they can square off your shoulders nicely. Look for jackets with more understated versions sewn under the lining. (Never shirts, which look too obviously padded.)

3. Flannel

It's good for lumberjacks and for people who live in chilly Seattle, but on the rest of us, flannel looked frumpy and silly. Worn open over an old concert T-shirt -- Kurt Cobain-style -- the situation got even worse.

Those looking for warm but more flattering styles should stick with this season's cozy sweaters, like vintage-inspired cardigans, adorned with a brooch, or a crocheted poncho.

4. The Dancer Look

Most of us are not professional dancers. So why did we once insist on dressing like them, complete with leg warmers, ripped sweatshirts, and braided headbands? Who did we think we were fooling? And this was just street wear. At the gym it got even worse: unitards, leotards cut waaay over the hip, and even thong bodysuits worn over biker shorts.

Still, there is something cool about that Jennifer Beals; she was on to something good. The key is to go for one element of dancer style and leave it at that. Ballet slipper flats, wrap sweaters, and chignons are classic, easy ways to convey a bit of dancer chic.

5. Tie-Dye

Like a bad flashback, this style keeps popping up at least once each decade -- and still lives on today. Fun to make at home -- not so fun to remember. The color combinations -- bright, psychedelic -- flattered almost no one. And whether you live the lifestyle or not, there's no getting away from the fact that tie-dye gives off a certain slacker vibe.

Love color? You can still wear it in a more polished way. Try unexpected combinations, like pink and red, or brown and plum. Or try to bring color in with accessories, like red shoes, a turquoise necklace, or a bright belt.

6. Bad Hair Accessories

Big hair wasn't enough in the '80s. We had to further adorn the wall of hairsprayed hair with ribbon barrettes and feathers on a clip. And those without long, overstyled hair were still in luck. They could tuck still-growing-in locks into unflattering banana clips to sport a kinda pontytail/kinda Mohawk.

Today's hair accessories (thank goodness) are a little more understated. To play if safe, stick with simple looks, like tortoiseshell ponytail holders or slim silver barrettes. You'll never have to burn photos of yourself in those.

Cats adopted by Indiana inmates
Stray felines encourage good behavior, official says

The Associated Press

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. - There are some pretty tough cats at Indiana State Prison.

However, they've done nothing wrong. They're pets of inmates.

"Come here, boy," inmate Jerry Grinstead cooed as he recently cuddled his cat Thor in his tattooed forearms. "Say, 'This is dad's baby.'"

The maximum security prison with its 29 cat-owning inmates is the only correctional facility in the state that allows these pets, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.

Cats were never part of the plan at the 144-year-old prison. They simply wandered in through the north gate that once served as the entrance for coal trains, said Barry Nothstine, administrative assistant at the prison. Others came in through the maze of sewer pipes, he said.

No one can say when the first cat appeared in the facility, or when inmates began adopting the animals as pets.

"This goes back years and years," Nothstine said.

The cats have brought advantages: Their companionship has encouraged many inmates to keep their behavior in line, he said.

Dog dials 911 to save owner
Service canine trained to speed-dial phone for help

Paul T. Erickson / TRI-CITY HERALD
Leana Beasley of Richland, Wash., sits near her service dog, Faith, on Thursday at her home.

The Associated Press

RICHLAND, Wash. - Leana Beasley has faith that a dog is man’s best friend.

Faith, a 4-year-old Rottweiler, phoned 911 when Beasley fell out of her wheelchair and barked urgently into the receiver until a dispatcher sent help. Then the service dog unlocked the front door for the police officer.

“I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call,” said dispatcher Jenny Buchanan. “The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver. I knew she was trying to tell me something.”

Faith is trained to summon help by pushing a speed-dial button on the phone with her nose after taking the receiver off the hook, said her owner, Beasley, 45, who suffers grand mal seizures.

Guided by experts at the Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound, Beasley helped train Faith herself.

The day of the fall, Faith “had been acting very clingy, wanting to be touching me all day long,” Beasley said Thursday.

The dog, whose sensitive nose can detect changes in Beasley’s body chemistry, is trained to alert her owner to impending seizures.

But that wasn’t what was happening on Sept. 7, and Faith apparently wasn’t sure how to communicate the problem. During Beasley’s three-week hospital stay, doctors determined her liver was not properly processing her seizure medication.

O'Reilly Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Citing his wish to shield his family, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly settled a harassment lawsuit brought by a former producer accusing him of graphically discussing sex with her.

"This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again," O'Reilly said on Thursday night's edition of his talk show, "The O'Reilly Factor."

O'Reilly, who is married with two children, also dropped an extortion lawsuit against his accuser and her lawyer.

Both sides have agreed to keep the details confidential, O'Reilly's attorney said.

Andrea Mackris, 33, who was a producer on the show, sued the outspoken, top-rated TV host Oct. 13, alleging O'Reilly made a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and telling her about sexual fantasies involving her.

Earlier that day, O'Reilly, 55, filed a lawsuit accusing Mackris and her lawyer of trying to extort $60 million in "hush money" over her allegations.

"This matter has caused enormous pain, but I had to protect my family, and I did," O'Reilly, whose ratings have gone up 30 percent since the lawsuits were filed, told his viewers Thursday. "All I can say to you is please do not believe everything you hear and read."

Shortly before "Factor" aired, O'Reilly's lawyer, Ronald Green, issued a statement saying the cases and claims had been withdrawn and all parties agreed there was no wrongdoing by O'Reilly, Mackris or Mackris' lawyer.

Green's statement about the settlement did not mention money, and it could not be learned immediately whether it was a factor.

Mackris' lawyer didn't return several telephone calls seeking comment.

Earlier, O'Reilly had vowed to fight the accusations.

"If I have to go down, I'm willing to do it," he said just after the suits were filed. "I'm going to take a stand. I'm a big mouth on the air and I'm a big mouth off the air."

He called the case "the single most evil thing I have ever experienced, and I've seen a lot. But these people picked the wrong guy."

Green had refused to confirm or deny specific things that Mackris claimed O'Reilly said to her, but he said at the time that O'Reilly "denies that he has done anything that rises to the level of unlawful sexual harassment."

Green also had said he believed there were tapes of conversations between the two and asked a court to compel Mackris to produce them so they could be played publicly.

"I know that he does not fear what is on the tapes," Green said at the time.

Among the accusations made in the suit, Mackris said O'Reilly suggested during a phone conversation in August that she buy a vibrator and was clearly excited. Before hanging up, she said, O'Reilly told her: "I appreciate the fun phone call." She contended he made a similar call Sept. 21, ending by saying: "Next time you'll come up to my hotel room and we'll make this happen."

Several days after filing her sexual harassment suit, Mackris filed amended court papers, claiming that Fox had violated her rights under New York state law by firing her after the allegations were raised.

Fox denied Mackris had been fired, saying she had simply stopped coming to work.

A spokeswoman for Fox would not say whether Mackris is still on Fox's payroll.

Green had said Mackris never taken her complaint to anyone at Fox. She had returned to Fox earlier this year after a short stint at CNN, and O'Reilly agreed to match her salary at CNN, the network said.

Fox produced an e-mail Mackris sent to a friend last month, saying things are "wonderful," and she was "surrounded by really good, fun people. I'm home and I'll never leave again."

Mackris said in her lawsuit that she told O'Reilly she would return to Fox only if he stopped behaving inappropriately.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Scary Dates
Everyone's had a mortifying "bad date" moment, but that's just part of the chase -- and can teach a valuable lesson.

By Amy Keyishian

First Impressions

Bad dates are like evil Beanie Babies -- something you collect, but only so you can scare your friends with them. But as terrible as they are, bad dating experiences do serve a purpose. "Bad dates help you figure out what you don't want in a man," says Norine Dworkin, coauthor of You Know He's a Keeper, You Know He's a Loser: Happy Endings and Horror Stories from Real-Life Relationships (Perigee Trade, 2004). "You go out with a fellow, he picks his nose, and now you know what else to add to your don't-want list: A nose-picker."

Knowing what you don't want helps -- to a point. Take Jessica's experience, for example. She thought she knew what she was getting into with her first date. "The date seemed so promising," says Jessica, 26, from Washington, DC. "He was 30 and established in his job. I thought he'd be a welcome relief from the postcollege flaky guys I'm usually exposed to. We were watching TV when he went in for a smooch. I wasn't in the mood for that -- first date and all -- so I gently rebuffed him." A few moments later, he reached across Jessica to grab his soda from the table.

"But instead of drinking from it, he stuck his finger into it and poked his now-wet finger into my right ear," Jessica recalls. "I was shocked, not having experienced a wet Willie since the age of 7, so I turned away to compose myself -- at which point he reached down my pants and yanked up my undies. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'd received a wedgie. Needless to say, I'd overestimated his maturity, and didn't go out with him again."

You may not have found yourself on a date with Pee-Wee Herman, but you've probably had a similarly mortifying moment.

To recover from a he-seemed-so-normal situation, Dworkin says, chalk it up to experience. "Don't beat yourself up with 'how could I have not seen what a creep he was,'" says Dworkin. "Instead say, 'at least I found out before I got too involved,' and know the next one has to be better."

Far from being discouraged by the many utterly icky experiences recounted in her terrifying tome, Dworkin says the other thing she learned from the bad dates out there "is how lucky I am to have the guy I finally found. He may leave his socks out, but he doesn't pick his nose in public -- knowing what's out there, I'm a lot more tolerant of my prince not-so-charming's foibles."

Dates from Heck

We've all got a first-date horror story. Here, several women reveal their most horrifying dating don'ts:

"My girlfriend was raving about how great this guy was, so I agreed to have dinner with him. He told me he had just bought a little house, and invited me back for dessert. I thought that was nice. As we ate dessert in the living room, he gave me a funny look. Then he smiled, and I saw he was missing one front tooth. I tried to smile politely, but he held up the [missing] tooth in his hand and said, 'It's fake! You couldn't tell!' I don't think I would have minded the fake tooth, but I didn't need it shown to me -- nor did I need him to ask, 'Can I kiss you? If you run your tongue through the hole, I'll bet it'll feel really weird.' No... no thanks." Rene, Portland, Oregon, 34

Ole -- Oh No
"I was on a first date with this guy, and we were having Mexican food. Yum, right? Yes, until he decided to move in for a smooch -- and pushed a Jalapeno pepper from his mouth into mine. What was that, his special move? Thank you very much, Zorro!" Denise, 40, Brooklyn, New York

Dinner and a Restraining Order
"It was a great date with a cute, charming guy: dinner, then drinks and chit-chat, and finally a walk around this groovy little neighborhood. Finally, he stopped, and said he 'wanted to come clean, since we'd had such a nice time' and said he wanted to take it further. He just had to be honest first. The reason he was wearing long pants, not shorts, was that he was wearing an electronic bracelet on his ankle. He was under house arrest -- for stalking his ex-girlfriend. Did I mind, he asked? I said I didn't, but then made sure my airline reassigned me so I'd never fly through his city again. Ever!!" Anne, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 34

A Third Wheel
"I was set up with a guy. He asked if I'd like to go to a Kings hockey game, and I said sure, but when he picked me up there was another woman in the front seat. He didn't introduce her, but said he was dropping her at the airport, and I proceeded to sit in the backseat feeling like a little kid while they babbled away in French. His cocky attitude continued, and I tried to fake some stomach pains to get out of the game at half-time, but he insisted we go out to some clubs afterward (where he had "connections," which never materialized). Thank goodness I ran into some friends at the club and could leave with them. But it gets weirder: a year ago I ended up in the ER with an allergic reaction to a sinus shot, and this fella was my doctor. And he asked me out again! No thank you, Dr. Ick!" Karyn, Los Angeles, California, 35

SpongeBob DorkPants
"My worst date never actually happened, thank God. I saw this guy, Paulie, online, and when we spoke on the phone, he sounded like he really understood women, because he had grown up with lots of sisters, you know? So the night before our beach date, we talk on the phone to confirm. He asks me what kind of bathing suit I wear. I say I have both a one-piece and a bikini, and I switch off depending on my mood. So he hmphs, and says 'Usually, when girls wear one-pieces, it means they're trying to hide something, like a fat stomach.' I'm like, okay, whatever. But he keeps going: 'Do you go to the gym?' I said no, but I left out the fact that I run four times a week, because how is it any of his business? Finally, he goes, 'Look, I can't see from this picture what your body looks like, and you might be fat. And I don't date big girls.' He goes on to say that he's concerned about my health, and says he couldn't date a woman who doesn't work out." I said, 'Why are you being such an ass?' and he responds that he didn't know I had such a rude vocabulary, and couldn't date me now anyway. Which was the correct answer, for once." Jillian, Cincinnati, Ohio, 26

Intestinal Terror
"This guy took me out for sushi. Yay. But it turned out to be an all-you-can-eat joint. Boo. If there's one thing I think you shouldn't cheap out on, it's raw fish. I stuck to the safe stuff, but he ate enough for me, him, and the next table -- then disappeared for 40 minutes. I wasn't sure what to do. Finally, he returned, belt in hand, and recounted (a) that he had an attack of diarrhea, (b) that the bathroom had a mirror so he was able to watch this diarrhea happen, and (c) that he had taken off the aforementioned belt so he could feel more comfortable. That was all I needed to hear, really -- domestic details like that should be saved for after marriage, I think. Maybe even for after divorce." Debbie, Maplewood, New Jersey, 33

Hey! Remember Me? I'm Your Date!
"I went out with a Seinfeld look-alike, which was bad enough to start with. He took me to a show where we were seated at long table with a gaggle of girls. By the middle of the show, I looked over to see him completely sitting with his back to me, deeply engaged in conversation with one of the girls. Not wanting to make a fuss, but not sure what to do, I went to the bathroom for a moment of peace. Her friends followed me in there, apologizing: 'She does this all the time,' they said. 'She's such a bitch. We're so sorry!' I said it was no problem -- he really wasn't my type anyway. I hope he got her number and they're very happy together." Cindy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 36

Red Hot and Blech
"I had gone out with this guy a few times, so we went back to his house to make out. But before we could sit on the couch and get comfortable, he took a handkerchief, removed the bulb from the nearby lamp, and replaced it with a blue lightbulb. Now that he had his mood lighting ready, he turned on the stereo. What came on? 'Nights in White Satin' by the Moody Blues. I'll admit that I did make out with him, since I didn't know how not to... but it wasn't for long, and he never got past first base. Okay?" Betsy, Montclair, New Jersey, 35

Clothing Optional
"This guy and I were kissing on the couch after our first date. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I came out, he'd taken off all his clothes. I repeat: He had taken off all his clothes! When I expressed surprise at this turn of events, he said, 'What? I thought that's why you went to the bathroom.' Hey, you've got to give him points for trying. But points were all he got that night!" Sarah, 45, Bloomfield, New Jersey

Waaay Too Much Information
"He seemed so great online, but when we met, he began detailing the show he'd seen at an S&M club the previous weekend. Lots of hog-tying, plenty of whipping...When he got to the part about the knives, I blurted out something about having to run to dinner, shook his hand, and ran out of there. I should have said, 'I didn't mean to cut you off...'" Irene, Brooklyn, New York, 36

Five Fast Escape Tactics

Date not going well? Don't climb out the bathroom window. Dworkin has some get-lost-quick moves that'll leave you free as a bird, but smelling like a rose.

1. Cell Yourself
Charlotte used this move on Sex and the City: the phone call with an emergency that you simply must attend to. Prep yourself by assigning a reliable friend to call you at a specified time -- you can ignore it if things are going well. Cell-phone-accessories producers like Digital Chocolate in San Francisco ( even offer a get-out-of-date-free option you can sign up for -- call yourself, no friend required!

2. Go Ellen
At a pivotal point in the date, sigh, and shake your head. "I have to make a confession," you say. "I'm a lesbian." Go on to explain that you just broke up with your girlfriend, and thought you'd give men a try, since life as a heterosexual seems so uncomplicated...but it's just not working.

3. Fake an Illness
Everyone thinks they can do this, which makes it suspicious. So give it extra gravitas. "Have yourself a migraine," says Dr. David J. Ores, a general practitioner in New York City. "It's invisible, it's a common malady, and it involves both pain and nausea." The first symptom is a stabbing, knifelike pain behind one of your eyes. "Hold your temple and say, 'Oh no, not again -- I apologize, I get these a few times a month, and my medicine is at home. It's going to get much worse, very fast.'" You can drive, he says, because you're used to having this malady -- which is also why you know you've got to leave right away.

4. Use Your Environment
If you're in a restaurant, the staff can be enlisted to help you. For instance, you can ask the Maitre D' to go back inside and say your car is being towed and you need to go after it, with apologies. Or he can come over and say you've gotten a call, if you don't have a cell phone, leaving you with an easy out. Just be sure you're not sticking him with a bill if you're supposed to be going Dutch!

5. Get Nerdy
Just as repeated Star Trek and Dungeons-and-Dragons references are a red flag for women, multiple cats are Kryptonite for men. If you cut the evening short, saying "I'm sorry, I didn't realize how late it was. My cat is diabetic, and I must give her insulin shots twice a day, exactly 12 hours apart -- I'm never far from her for long," he will not just excuse you. He'll never call again.

6. Skimp on Quality
Not sure about your date? Wear cheap shoes, and break a heel when you need to. It's a great excuse to go home -- how are you supposed to walk? -- and will get you out of there pronto, with a promise to call when you get home. Then get very, very busy if he ever calls back.

"The most important thing," says Dworkin, "is to not feel bad about hurting his feelings. We women get caught up in that, but it's better to cut bait than string him along. I once dated what was supposed to be a one-night-stand for eight months just to be polite. Who knows who I missed meeting in the process?"

Indeed. A certain author -- of this article -- kept dating a guy she now refers to as Fat-Josh for a year and a half after he let loose a vicious fart, in the middle of a charming cobblestoned street, while eating a drippy falafel, on their first date. Don't meet the same fate: Learn to extricate yourself from a distressing situation -- and keep trying till you find Mister Right (or at least Mister Not-So-Flatulent).

Shake It Like You Mean It
By Joy Davia, Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

A few bad social handshakes can pass. But a good grip is crucial for any professional encounter.

"Oooooh, yeah, that's one of the basic things," said Ellie Cope, senior vice president at Career Development Services in Rochester, N.Y. "No limp fish handshakes. I do get that and I'm appalled. All I want to do is show the person the right way to shake hands."

Bad body language - which includes a not-so-great grip - might imply that you are unconfident or unenthusiastic.

What will a potential client think when they grasp your hand to find that there's nothing on the other end? Will an interviewer, faced with two equal candidates, pick the person with the better body language? Probably.

"Overall body language could definitely be a deal breaker," said Rafael Vidal, division director of Robert Half Management Resources. "You need to distinguish yourself against your competition. Having a good handshake and eye contact and proper posture will at the end of the day help you."

Job applicants labor over what they will say in an interview. So do employees who are about to sweet-talk a potential client. They hardly worry about the nonverbal clues they are sending, Vidal said. has these tips for the perfect shake:

- Grip the other person's hand so the webs of your thumbs meet.

- Shake just a couple of times. Motion from the elbow, not the shoulder.

- End the handshake cleanly, before the introduction is over. Maybe hold the handshake for three or four seconds.

If you are hunting for a job, videotape yourself doing a mock interview. Make sure your handshake is fluid, you're not slouching in your seat, and that you are making eye contact, said Vidal.

You could stick to an average grip - not too limp or bone-crushing, suggested John Challenger of the national outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Or respond to the interviewer's style. Let them lead, and adjust your grip accordingly.

"If they give you a seven, give them a seven," he said. "If they give you a two, give them a two."

"Remember, it's the interviewer who should set the pace."

Or you could subject several friends to your handshake and ask for a critique.

Fortunately, not everyone puts a lot of stock in a person's handshake. "If the body language overall is strong, I don't even think about it," Vidal said.

Challenger added, "With first impressions, people get ruled out in the first five minutes. They don't seem right for a host of perception issues, and the handshake might be one of them."

Half-ton man recovering from obesity surgery
Patrick Deuel lost 400 pounds before procedure

The Associated Press

Stuart Villanueva / Argus Leader
Patrick Deuel prepares to stand with the help of a registered nurse and physical therapist
in his room at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D. on Aug. 19. At 1,072 pounds
before he entered Avera McKennan Hospital in June, Deuel, 42, has since lost over 400 pounds.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A man who weighed about half a ton when he was admitted to a hospital was recovering Wednesday from obesity surgery.

Patrick Deuel, 42, underwent the procedure to reduce the size of his stomach four months after being admitted to the hospital at 1,072 pounds.

He had been bedridden since last fall and was malnourished because so many of his calories came from foods high in fat and carbohydrates.

Deuel had difficulty breathing and suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes linked to obesity that his doctor said were killing him.

Gaining strength with weight loss
Gastric bypass surgery was thought to be his best chance for permanent weight loss, but doctors said Deuel needed to lose some weight first, to gain enough strength so he could walk on his own and prove he was healthy enough to survive the surgery.

Before going into surgery on Tuesday, Deuel had lost 421 pounds. He said his diabetes and high-blood pressure were under control and credited the results to a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet and exercise.

Caregivers and others are starting to take notice of the changes, he said.

"Every time I move they don't look at me like, 'My God, he is going to fall down or something,"' Deuel told Sioux Falls television station KELO in an interview before the surgery.

Last month, Deuel took his first steps with the help of nurses and two walkers for support. More recently, he has been walking up stairs and even swimming at the hospital's pool.

Gastric bypass is the most common obesity surgery in the United States. The operation involves creating a pouch in the upper stomach and attaching it to a section of intestine, reducing the amount of food patients can eat.

Deuel, a former restaurant manager from Valentine, Neb., is just under 6 feet tall and has always fought his weight. He weighed about 90 pounds in kindergarten and more than 250 pounds in middle school.

After stomach stapling, more surgery
Weight-loss patients increasingly opt for body contouring

By Jane Weaver
Health editor

Courtesy of Kirk Thompson
Kirk Thompson had skin removed from his stomach and thighs after losing 400 pounds with the
help of gastric bypass surgery. In April, he'll have more plastic surgery.

Updated: 3:08 p.m. ET March 4, 2004Kirk Thompson, 41, had lost 400 pounds in the two years since his gastric bypass, or "stomach stapling," operation at Ohio State University Medical Center in October 2001. Down from a peak weight of 745 pounds, the West Virginia native was closer to a normal weight than he had been in decades. After years of suffering congestive heart failure and rarely leaving his home except to go to the hospital, Thompson's health was improving.

But while he'd lost a huge amount of weight, when he looked in the mirror he saw the same obese man he’d been since high school. He was still carrying 100 pounds of extra skin, including layers of flesh around his abdomen that hung down nearly to his knees.

"It was hard to walk," says Thompson, who works with a weight-loss support site called "It made me so off-balance that I was almost stumbling."

So Thompson went back to Ohio State to have the skin around his abdomen and upper legs tightened.

About 25 pounds of loose skin were removed by a tummy tuck and lower body reshaping, an operation that is becoming one of the fastest growing areas of plastic surgery in the United States.

"It feels great and really strange," says Thompson, who lost 12 inches around his waist from the plastic surgery. "It made my whole life different."

Driven by the American obesity epidemic and by the high-profile success stories of celebrities such as NBC's Al Roker and the novelist Anne Rice, the number of weight-loss, or bariatric, procedures is expected to top 144,000 this year, according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgeries. But the road to weight loss doesn't always end there. Many of those patients will seek a plastic surgeon to help their formerly obese bodies look more normal.

Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
The abdominoplasty, which removes the hanging skin around the stomach,
is the most common procedure after weight-loss surgery.

Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that 52,049 people had some kind of body contouring following massive weight loss in 2003, the first year the association has tracked that specific category. Plastic surgeons say it's clear there has been a significant increase in demand for these procedures.

"People are now a lot more aware that skin surgery may be part of their gastric bypass operations," says Dr. Robin Blackstone, a surgeon and director of the Scottsdale Bariatric Center in Arizona.

Five years ago Dr. Albert Cram, chief of plastic surgery at the University of Iowa, used to perform one tummy tuck or body lift a month on patients who had lost massive amounts of weight. Now his department averages one or two a week.

"It's growing significantly," he says.

People who have lost more than 100 pounds may find that weight-related illnesses like diabetes or hypertension go away, but they still don't look thin. The skin becomes like an elastic band that has been stretched too far. No matter how much exercise, or what kind of exercise, they do, the skin doesn't go back to its normal size.

"Expanded skin doesn't have the same capabilities as before weight gain; it's damaged skin with stretch marks," says Dr. Jeffrey Kenkel, vice chairman of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "From the head down to the ankles, there’s a lot of overhanging skin."

Not just about vanity
For some weight-loss surgery patients, a body lift isn't about vanity or for simply cosmetic purposes. Hanging folds of flesh around the abdomen can cause rashes, chronic infections, hygiene problems and difficulties with exercising. These people may have conquered the health problems like diabetes that accompany excessive weight, but their clothes still don't fit properly.

"The profound effect is on body image," says Dr. J. Peter Rubin, director of the Life After Weight Loss Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a center which specializes in body contouring and counseling. "The plastic surgery after weight loss can have just as powerful an effect on someone as the gastric bypass."

Not every person who has a weight-loss operation will see the need for additional surgery to counteract skin laxity. Age and genetics play a part, with older patients and those whose weight tops 400 pounds being the most likely candidates, plastic surgeons say.

The most common procedure is the tummy tuck, or the abdominoplasty, an operation designed to remove the "apron" of skin hanging from the stomach. Some people have skin removed from their sides and back, and their buttocks reshaped.

Courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey M. Kenkel
Some patients who have lost a large amount of weight need an arm lift procedure,
also known as a brachioplasty, to remove droopy skin.

Other weight-loss patients may need a lower body lift, which includes lifting the skin up from the knees almost like pulling up a pair of pants, says Dr. Deborah White, a plastic surgeon in Scottsdale, Ariz. Some may need tightening and lifting in their upper arms, the chest or breasts.

"A person's arms may not go into the sleeves of their clothes because there's too much extra skin," says White.

Most of the skin-lifting procedures are scheduled about a year to 18 months after a patient's gastric bypass so that the majority of the weight has already been lost.

"The key issue is that a patient's weight is stable and is as close to the ideal body weight as possible," says Rubin.

Recovery includes several days of hospitalization. After six weeks, the patient can return to work and can usually begin exercising after eight weeks, says Rubin. Scars can take a year to heal.

But recovery may not be the most difficult part of body contouring. Getting coverage from an insurance company may be. As the number of people getting gastric bypass has surged, commercial insurers are becoming more resistant to covering the $30,000 procedure, citing safety issues. They're also more likely to deny payment for any operation not considered medically necessary.

On average the cost of an abdominal tuck is between $6,000 and $10,000, depending on the area of the country. For a lower body lift with a thigh reshaping, the price can reach $10,000 to $20,000. A complete body contouring, including face lift, can top $30,000, according to estimates.

Most doctors spread the procedures, which can take five to 10 hours in surgery, over several months.

'Big operation'
While skin surgery doesn’t carry the same risks as gastric bypass -- which has a nationwide mortality rate of 1 in 200, according to doctors -- there can be complications. The patient is placed under general anesthesia, which can be risky for someone who may have weight-related heart problems.

There's a danger of post-surgical blood clots. Long incisions can be slow to heal, fluid can collect between the muscle walls and the skin and severe scabbing can slow recovery.

"It is a big operation and recovery is extensive," says Cram. "If we tighten as much as we can, the patient can have problems bending forward and can feel constrained for awhile."

While any plastic surgeon can perform body contouring, Kenkel urges patients to find an accredited overnight facility and seek a doctor who has experience with other weight-loss patients.

"It does require a magnitude of care," says Kenkel. "Other techniques don't fit these patients because they've lost such volume in their tissue that needs to be replaced. "

Thompson is going back for more skin tightening in April, when doctors are expecting to remove another 35 pounds of skin from his chest and sides. His legs, arms and back will be reworked in another series of surgeries.

He acknowledges that the surgeries are difficult but he isn't worried.

"The answer at the end is, it's worth the pain," he says. "I was so large I couldn't go out. Now I fit in and I'm almost totally normal."

Obese patients overcome exercise challenges
Coach helps overweight clients ease into fitness

The Associated Press

Tom Burns realized he was woefully out of shape after he ran a block and a half around his neighborhood and felt "every bone, muscle and joint in my body was killing me."

Back then, Burns was obese. At 5-foot-8, he tipped the scales at 220 pounds. The last time he got any regular exercise was in high school when he played for the hockey team. Over the years, the 38-year-old became less active and watched helplessly as his waistline kept expanding.

At least half an hour of exercise five days a week is recommended for couch potatoes. But for two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese, sudden exercise can be more than challenging — it can be dangerous.

A 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight, sedentary people are more than 30 times more likely to have a heart attack during vigorous exertion than at any other time.

And there are other obesity-related health risks that must be taken considered before starting a routine since heavy people suffer from a higher risk of diabetes, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Proceed with caution
But fitness experts say the key is not to overdo it and proceed with caution.

Even a simple task like walking may feel like a chore. Carrying extra weight around their middle or thighs may also increase the risk of sports injuries because of stress on the joints.

Some can't get a full workout because certain gym equipment like weight benches and rowing machines are too narrow, leading to knee or back problems. And there’s the image factor. Many people feel self-conscious walking into a gym full of sculpted bodies.

Still, fitness experts say the biggest challenge is motivating an obese person to get moving. One solution is to make exercise a part of daily life. Everyday tasks like running errands and climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator will make exercise feel seamless.

"Overcoming inertia is a huge challenge," said Richard Cotton, chief exercise physiologist of the American Council on Exercise. "It's very, very important to get into it gradually, but consistently."

Try walking first
Clay Anderson, a fitness professor at Utah Valley State College who coaches obese and morbidly obese people, tells his clients to just walk until they can do it for an hour nonstop.

After several months of just walking, he introduces other exercises into the mix like elliptical trainers, yoga classes and weight training. The goal is to lose two to three pounds a week, but Anderson admits some people expect miracle weight loss through exercise.

"They all want to lose too much too fast," Anderson said. "You kind of have to rein them back in."

Burns took up exercise to make a lifestyle change after thinking about his own mortality. Both his father and grandfather died young from heart disease at ages 55 and 48.

What began as a jog around his Buffalo, N.Y., neighborhood one cold December morning in 2000 turned into a lifelong passion. At first, he could barely trot two blocks. But after buying a book for novice runners, he upped his pace so that now he competes in marathons. He even started a nonprofit foundation that promotes health and wellness through exercise.

And he's lost 40 pounds.

But it has not all been carefree.

"The one mental block that I face and still face to this day," he said, "is getting off the couch and going to run."

Number of overweight Americans holds steady
Consumers becoming more aware of what they eat, study finds


LOS ANGELES - The number of overweight Americans is holding steady as U.S. consumers are becoming more aware of what they eat, an annual report by market research firm The NPD Group said.

The percent of overweight Americans reached 62 percent for the second year in a row, the report said. The rate had increased every year between 1995 and 2002.

"At some point we knew this would happen," said NPD Vice President Harry Balzer, the author of the report entitled The Eating Patterns in America "Americans just couldn't continue to put on weight."

The report, which is based on 12 months of data collected through February of this year, found that 27 percent of U.S. consumers say they are conscious of the number of calories in their meals, the highest level in five years.

In addition, consumers ate at restaurants less often than they did in 1985.

The number of restaurant take-out meals Americans eat also has leveled off after increasing for more than 10 years.

Americans getting a bit taller and much heavier
Government figures show U.S. is literally growing


WASHINGTON - Americans are getting taller on average but they are much heavier too, according to government figures released Wednesday showing that the U.S. population is, literally, growing.

The findings hold for women, men and children, the National Center for Health Statistics reports.

On average, adult men and women are about an inch taller than they were in 1960 and 25 pounds heavier.

The average body mass index, a weight-for-height formula used to measure obesity, has tipped across the overweight point from 25 in 1960 to 28 in 2002.

The government's latest report on height and weight shows that the average height of a man aged 20 to 74 went from just over 5 feet 8 inches in 1960 to 5 feet 9 inches in 2002.

The average height of a woman has gone from 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 4 inches.

Weights, however, have ballooned. The average weight of an adult man was 166.3 pounds in 1960 and 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women went from 140.2 pounds to 164.3 pounds .

"This is exactly what we have been concerned about," Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a telephone interview.

"It tells me that we are facing an ominous trend in the degree of obesity and lack of physical fitness in our country. It is going to have profound health impacts on our children, on our adults and on our seniors."

Trend includes both boys and girls
The average 10-year-old boy in 1963 weighed 74.2 pounds and was 55.2 inches tall. By 2002 the average weight was nearly 85 pounds and height 55.7 inches, said the NCHS, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For 10-year-old girls, the average weight in 1963 was 77.4 pounds and height 55.5 inches. Girls grew an average of an inch taller by 2002 to 56.4 inches but gained an average of 11 pounds to 88 pounds .

The statistics also show that Americans began edging toward overweight by the time they were teenagers.

"In 1966, the average BMI for a 16-year-old boy was 21.3; in 2002, it was 24.1," the NCHS said. "For girls the same age, the average BMI increased from 21.9 to 24.0 over the same period."

Body mass index is the most commonly used method for calculating whether someone weighs too much. A BMI of 20-24 is considered healthy. An adult is overweight if their BMI is 25 or higher and obese at a BMI of 30.

More than 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, with a much higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers than people of healthy weight.

The American Obesity Association estimates that 127 million people in the United States are overweight, 60 million are obese, and 9 million are severely obese.

The Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government on health matters, last month said a range of measures would be needed to tackle childhood obesity, including nationwide school exercise programs and changes in fast-food advertising.

"It's not an easy fix. There is no magic bullet to cure this one," Gerberding said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Are you a dangerous driver? 10 ways to tell
Bad habits range from road rage to eating while driving. Compare yourself with these accident magnets from Boston. Do you see yourself here?

Surely you've seen them on the road: They're swerving in and out of lanes, ignoring rules of the road, and engaging in other rude -- and dangerous -- behavior. Or maybe you are that bad driver?

Compare yourself with a focus group of 30 drivers from Boston who have collectively been involved in 84 accidents over the past three years and received 49 speeding tickets, 39 moving violations and 92 parking tickets. Take a look at these questions to find out if you fit the profile.
• When you reach a stop sign and no one is coming from another direction, do you roll through instead of stopping? An overwhelming majority (87%) of the bad drivers say they should be able to speed, go through stop signs, and break other driving rules and regulations as long as no one gets hurt.

• Do you talk on the cell phone while driving instead of pulling off and stopping to talk? A total of 77% of bad drivers say they do this either frequently or occasionally. Only 13% say they never talk on a cell phone while driving.

• Do you take your coffee and muffin or other food and drink on the road with you, driving with one hand while using the other to eat? Some 60% of those in the study say they either frequently or occasionally eat while they're driving. In fact, several of the participants say they have spilled drinks and attempted to clean up the spill while driving.

• If you're out shopping in a crowded area and are looking for a parking space, do you become so focused on your search that you lose sight of the cars and pedestrians around you? More than half of the participants say that when they're trying to find a parking space in a crowded area, they can become so focused that they become oblivious to other drivers and pedestrians and often get into accidents, whether on the street or in a parking lot.

• Do you hate driving behind SUVs or other large vehicles that obstruct your view? More than 60% of bad drivers say they are frustrated driving behind SUVs because they are wide and tall and block their vision. In fact, more than 70% believe SUVs should be required to drive in a separate lane on the highway.

• Does your driving change when you go into areas with higher police presence? Nearly all of the participants strongly agree with the statement that they drive more carefully when they know police are in the area. In addition, most participants say they check their rearview mirrors regularly for police cars.

• Does listening to music while you drive sometimes leave you oblivious to all but the music? Some 93% of participants say they listen to the radio while driving, and 73% of them listen to music. Most say listening to the radio has often caused them to become distracted and in some cases they say listening to loud music has caused them to be more aggressive on the highway.

• Do you find yourself in confrontations on the road, either through verbal arguments or hand gestures, because of either your own driving habits or the habits of others? While 87% of the bad drivers consider themselves at least somewhat courteous drivers if not very courteous, at least half also admit making obscene or rude gestures or comments to other drivers, particularly those who cut in front of them on the highway. Participants also say, however, that they appreciate a thank-you gesture for letting another driver into their lane, and often give a wave of thanks themselves when they cut into traffic.

• Does your "work hard, play hard" lifestyle leave you sleepy behind the wheel at times? About 50% of those in the study say they have almost fallen asleep while driving and an additional 10% say they have wanted to shut their eyes while driving and almost did. The study found that most participants lead a busy lifestyle that sometimes leaves them sleep-deprived.

• When you're driving with passengers, do you turn around to talk, taking your eyes and mind off the road? Nearly all group members acknowledged that they are distracted when they have passengers in their vehicles, and most say during conversations they'll turn their heads and stop paying attention to the road. This held true especially for drivers with small children.
If your answers agree with the answers from the focus group, it's likely you tend to be a more aggressive driver than average. Like members of the study, you may also pay more for your auto insurance. Within the study group, 53% pay a surcharge on their auto insurance because of their driving records.

Outgoing, confident, and a menace
These bad drivers have other characteristics that you may recognize in your own life. Most say they lead very stressful lives without enough time to accomplish all their activities in a day. They all consider themselves either somewhat or very outgoing, and all have a fair to great amount of confidence in the way they behave. And 90% say they've told a "little white lie" to protect someone's feelings.

The group was broken down into three age groups, from 18 to 25 years old, 26 to 45 years old, and 46 to 59 years old. There were 19 men and 11 women in the study, commissioned by RightFind Technology, a company developing new products to help insurers make better decisions on auto insurance rates for specific drivers.

While the study is based on a small group and should be considered a hypothesis rather than a conclusion, "our study identified several personality attributes that seem clearly linked to accident involvement," says Donald Bashline, one of the owners of RightFind. "Witnessing these focus groups was a revelation."

Drunken Bees Create Buzz on Drunken Humans
Tipsy Bees Offer New Clues on the Effects of Alcohol in Humans

By Jennifer Warner

Oct. 25, 2004 -- Drunken worker bees may not produce much honey, but their behavior under the influence may help researchers understand the effects of alcohol in humans, according to new research.

Researchers found alcohol affects bees and humans in similar ways by impairing their movement and stalling their learning and memory processing, and these effects intensify according to how much alcohol they imbibe and the time since ingestion.

The study showed that honey bees that were fed the human equivalent of 200-proof grain alcohol spent most of the next 40 minutes on their backs, unable to stand. But bees who drank the human equivalent of wine spent the least amount of time of their backs, and the effects of the alcohol took about 20 minutes to sink in.

The researchers presented their findings this week at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

"On the molecular level, the brains of honey bees and humans work the same," says researcher Julie Mustard, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at Ohio State University, in a news release. "Knowing how chronic alcohol use affects genes and proteins in the honey bee brain may help us eventually understand how alcoholism affects memory and behavior in humans, as well as the molecular basis of addiction."

Alcohol's Effect on Bees and Humans

In the study, researchers fed worker honey bees solutions of sugar and alcohol (ethanol) with alcohol concentrations ranging from 10% to 100%. The 10% solution was equivalent to drinking wine and the 100% solution was equivalent to drinking grain alcohol.

The bees were then observed for 40 minutes, and researchers measured the amount of time they spent walking, stopped, grooming, flying, and upside down to determine the effect of alcohol.

The study showed that drinking alcohol significantly decreased the amount of time spent walking, grooming, or flying, and increased the amount of time the bees spent upside down.

"These bees had lost postural control," says Mustard. "They couldn't coordinate their legs well enough to flip themselves back over again."

Researchers found the likelihood that the bees exhibited change in their behavior increased along with the potency of the alcoholic beverage they drank.

"Honey bees are very social animals, which makes them a great model for studying the effects of alcohol in a social context," says researcher Geraldine Wright, also a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at Ohio State University, in the release.

"Many people get aggressive when they drink too much," says Wright. "We want to learn if ethanol consumption makes the normally calm, friendly honey bee more aggressive. We may be able to examine how ethanol affects the neural basis of aggression in this insect, and in turn learn how it affects humans."

We Love Emerald Nuts, Too!
Check yourself, Planters. There's a new nut in town.
By Seth Stevenson

The spot: A Scandinavian fellow patiently coaches an archery student. Voice-over: "Encouraging Norwegians love Emerald Nuts." A pair of men named Norman shout about how great they are. "Egotistical Normans love Emerald Nuts." A girl in a Cornhuskers outfit listens in on a nearby conversation. "Eavesdropping Nebraskans love Emerald Nuts." You get the idea—there's a whole series of these spots, all revolving around the initials "E.N." (Click here to see the ads.)

Check yourself, Planters. There's a new nut on the scene.

Diamond of California, a cooperative of 1,800 walnut growers, has long done solid business with its line of "culinary nuts." These are the nuts that come in Plain Jane packaging at the supermarket. They're used in cookie recipes favored by retired women. It's a nice little niche. But Diamond wants more.

They see huge opportunity in the "snack nut" category—nuts you might buy at the Kwik-E-Mart to scarf by the handful. Why? Two reasons. First, nuts are back. Atkins dieters made them hip again. And second, Planters is the only major player in this category. Planters has massive market share and no big national competitors.

Enter Emerald Nuts. Diamond created the brand this year and launched the national ad campaign in August. Since the brand is starting from scratch, the goal with this initial campaign is just to get the brand name out there. I think they've done that.

There's no better way to make us remember a name than to shape the entire campaign around the name itself. Each ad hammers home "E.N." for "Emerald Nuts." I can't think of a campaign more likely to "get credit" for its spots—the mnemonic ensures that we'll never forget which product these ads are for.

And the ads themselves are goofy and appealing. My favorites: "Elegant Naysayers" (a teenager wears a frilly, aristocratic costume—and hates everything) and "Evil Navigators" (a guy in the passenger's seat gives directions from a map ... and then calmly spins his head 360 degrees, a la The Exorcist, before grabbing a handful of nuts from a jar on the dashboard).

But the true genius here isn't the content of the ads. It's the length, the abundance, and the careful scheduling of the ads. According to Diamond's vice president of marketing, Sandy McBride, once the "E.N." idea was settled on, everything else fell into place. They decided to run a whole lot of 15-second ads instead of a few 30-second ones. In part this was because the joke is so simple, it can't fill even 30 seconds of airtime. But Diamond also knew that, with a limited budget, it would get much more bang for its buck. There are 15 different spots in the campaign right now. (McBride says they shot them all together, in three days.) The diversity helps prevent ad fatigue, where we've seen the same spot so many times that we tune it out.

Finally, the scheduling coup de grâce: Diamond chose to regularly air two different spots during the same commercial break—one at the very start of the break, one at the very end. It didn't cost anything extra to secure these slots, and it was easy for the networks to carry out. As a result, we get tickled by the first spot and, after we're given a minute or two to ponder it, we're hit with a second spot straight away to cement the brand name in our minds.

The only trade-off with hitting so hard on brand awareness is that Diamond doesn't show us why we'd want to eat their nuts instead of Planters', or why we'd want to eat any nuts at all for that matter. There's no focus whatsoever on product attributes: It's not clear that these nuts are tasty, or healthy, or affordable. But Diamond figures this is a job for subsequent campaigns, once the name is out there.

Of course, even these 15 different, quick-hitting spots will grow familiar and tune-out-able before long. Diamond says it will advertise during the next Super Bowl, and surely it'll need a new set of E.N.s by then. In fact, the entire shtick will wear thin within six months or so, I think. But not before every man, woman, and child is excruciatingly aware of the name "Emerald Nuts."

Grade: A-. Engaging Nut-marketers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

History’s greatest unsolved crimes
From Jack the Ripper to Jimmy Hoffa, here are 10 of the most notorious cases yet to be cracked

By Ian Hodder

William Whitehurst/Corbis

Nothing haunts the mind and stirs the imagination like a real-life whodunit. Gory details, large sums of money or sexual overtones pique the public's interest, while authorities struggle, sometimes for decades, to crack the case. Who killed the beauty queen? Where is the body buried? How did the heist unfold? Such questions might never be answered, but here's a mystery resolved below: What are history's 10 greatest unsolved crimes?

Everyone knows who murdered five (maybe more) prostitutes during 1888 in London's Whitechapel district: Jack the Ripper. The mystery is his real identity. In 2002, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell concluded a $4 million investigation by fingering painter Walter Sickert. Other suspects include Queen Victoria's grandson Prince Albert Victor, royal physician Sir William Gull, and even "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll, who most Ripperologists conclude was a weird guy, but probably not a killer.

Black Dahlia
The 1947 slaying of 22-year-old aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia for her dark hair and wardrobe, unfolded like a film noir. In an empty Los Angeles lot, Short's body was found mutilated, sliced in two and drained of blood, all with surgical precision. The LAPD dismissed many suspects, including a handful who confessed, and never cracked the case. Several books have claimed to name the murderer, including 2003's "Black Dahlia Avenger," in which author Steve Hodel convicts his own father, a former L.A. doctor.

Marilyn Sheppard
Cleveland neurosurgeon Dr. Sam Sheppard was charged with the July 1954 murder of his 31-year-old pregnant wife, Marilyn, while their 7-year-old son slept in the next room. Sheppard maintained his innocence and implicated a dark-haired intruder — the "one-armed man" of "The Fugitive" TV series and movie this case inspired. Nonetheless, Sheppard was found guilty. He appealed, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction on the grounds that excessive publicity unfairly influenced his trial. He was acquitted at a retrial. Until his death in 1970, Sheppard sought to find his wife's killer, a mission his family continues to this day.

The Zodiac Killings
Creepiness incarnate, the Bay Area's Zodiac Killer shot to death two teens in December 1968 who had parked on a rural road to make out. Six months later, he fired at another couple. Although one victim survived that attack, his witness account failed to yield a suspect, and the Zodiac would kill seven people before ending his spree in October 1969. (He might also have slain others in years before and after his attributed crimes.) But he would taunt police for a decade with coded, clue-laden letters to San Francisco newspapers. His final note arrived in 1978, although there’s debate over its authenticity. Some investigators believe the Zodiac Killer might still live in California.

D.B. Cooper
On Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, D.B. Cooper, the passenger in seat 18E on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 from Portland, Ore., to Seattle, threatened to blow up the plane unless he received $200,000 cash. Cooper collected his ransom at Seattle's airport, and demanded the pilot fly back toward Oregon. Just north of Portland, Cooper opened the rear door and parachuted into the dark from the airborne 727 with 21 pounds of $20 bills strapped to his torso. Neither he nor the money (except for $5,880, found years later along the Columbia River) was ever seen again. The case remains the FBI's only unsolved airplane hijacking.

Jimmy Hoffa
Deposed Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa vanished in July 1975 from a Detroit restaurant. Guessing the whereabouts of his corpse (Hoffa was declared dead in 1982) has since been a national pastime. Under Giants Stadium, down a Pennsylvania mineshaft or buried in Northern Michigan are popular options. Thanks to his strong-arm tactics, Hoffa had many enemies, including government officials, labor leaders and mobsters, who presumably rubbed him out. The 2004 book "I Heard You Paint Houses" claimed that the late hit man Frank Sheeran shot Hoffa outside Detroit, and left the body there.

Ciudad Juaréz
This past July in Juaréz, Mexico, authorities found the body of Alma Brisa Molina Baca, a 34-year-old factory worker who had been raped and strangled. She was the latest victim in a decade-long pattern of killings that has claimed, by some estimates, 370 women — most of them poor workers at nearby maquiladoras, most of their bodies dumped in the desert. That staggering statistic, plus outrage with what human-rights advocates call half-hearted law enforcement, has sparked Amnesty International and other worldwide groups to urge authorities to find the killers.

Gardner Museum
Art historians have been cringing since St. Patrick's Day, 1990, when two men stole 13 paintings worth an estimated $300 million from Boston's Gardner Museum. Cringing because the artworks were hacked from their frames. Cringing because the museum was uninsured. Cringing because the unarmed thieves, dressed as policemen, simply knocked on the door late at night, and security guards let them in. Cringing because a $5 million reward and an investigation that has touched upon the Massachusetts mob and even the Irish Republican Army has failed to crack the world's biggest art heist.

Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls
A drive-by shooter killed 25-year-old rapper Tupac Shakur in September 1996, in Las Vegas. Six months later, March 1997, rival Biggie Smalls, 24, was gunned down in Los Angeles. The victims were former friends who became entangled in hip-hop's East Coast (Smalls) vs. West Coast (Shakur, who'd switched teams) feud. In 2002, a Los Angeles Times investigation suggested Smalls paid the Southside Crips gang to assassinate Shakur, while documentarian Nick Broomfield implicated Shakur's record-label chief, Suge Knight, who allegedly had Smalls erased to confuse authorities. Both cases remain open.

JonBenét Ramsey
A murder made in tabloid heaven: Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, daughter of a wealthy Boulder, Colo., executive and his socially ambitious wife, was found dead in the basement of the family home after Christmas, 1996. An odd ransom note left at the scene and clashes between family, police and district attorney fanned the media frenzy, while public speculation centered on parents John and Patsy Ramsey. Eight years later, still no arrest. (Side note: John Ramsey ran unsuccessfully this year for a seat in Michigan's legislature.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

9 ways to look rich but live cheap
Rise above your measly income and worn-out shoes. You can live the Simply Fabulous lifestyle and enjoy cushy perks even without being adopted by the Rockefellers.

By MP Dunleavey

Want to look as if you're living a wealthier lifestyle than you actually are? Me too! In fact, I come from a long line of frugal women who obeyed the motto: "Live well, look rich and never let the world know how little you're really paid." An excellent philosophy, which can be summed up as "Live cheap, look rich."

Sure, I daydream about having millions to throw around -- and so do you. (Americans spend about $25 billion each year on lottery tickets in fruitless pursuit of this dream.) But people who have mastered the Live Cheap, Look Rich way of life know that it’s not about having more money, it’s about getting more out of life for the money you have.

And looking (and feeling) well-heeled while you do it. "Just because you don't have a fat wallet means you have to go without life's pleasures," says Shel Horowitz, author of "The Penny-Pinching Hedonist" and founder of the Web site. Here is a quick boot camp on how to cultivate a more affluent way of life without actually spending a lot of money on it.

The art of affluence
One thing masters of the Live Cheap, Look Rich lifestyle will tell you is that wealth is just as much about your mindset as it is about your bank account. So learning to live a richer life may require you to start by thinking differently.

Buy classics. At first this sounds like an expensive move; classics always cost more. But for certain purchases, spending more may be a better investment in the long run. Take cashmere. It's ridiculously expensive. And yet I rely on my small hoard of cashmere sweaters because they not only look smashing, but they will last long after that GAP wool-blend sweater falls apart. Same with cars. "I decided to buy a five-year-old BMW this year," says Sandy deNicolais, former fashion and beauty editor of Women's Day. "The payments for a brand-new Honda were the same. But in five years, that Honda won't be worth as much as my BMW. The BMW will last longer, it's higher quality, it's got more style."

Travel creatively. As I learned at my upscale women's liberal arts college, wealthy people are always just coming back from somewhere fabulous and far away. And you can too, with a little ingenuity. By logging onto Luxury Link, a luxury travel auction site, one friend of mine bought a five-night stay at swanky Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands for about $900. No, that didn't include airfare, but she and her partner didn't spend any more than they would have on a dull stateside getaway. If you can travel at the last-minute, remaindered airline seats are sold for cheap on the Smarter Living Web site. Or you can consider the many options that let you stay somewhere princely for nothing -- international hosting or home-swapping services. Some of these networks charge a fee to join, but it's usually reasonable. Horowitz says that he and his wife and daughter stayed for 12 nights in Wales last year and paid a total of $50 for lodging, thanks to the generosity of a SERVAS host. (For more on home swapping, see "Home swaps: The ticket for vacation savings.")

Vicarious wealth by volunteering. Major charities always need volunteers, and they often hold a yearly bash where you can meet and mingle with the rich and famous. Or you can volunteer at a local theater or arts organization and gain access to pricey cultural events without paying a dime. Black-tie events are not only for those who can afford the $500 door ticket. It's for those who hold the doors, too. Horowitz ushers at a local music venue, and in the last few years has attended concerts by Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Chuck Berry. "Those tickets would have cost me $500 to $600 out of pocket."

Giving the appearance of wealth. It's far easier to acquire the kind of manners and good breeding that come along with a wealthy upbringing than it is to go back and change the way you were raised. Some pointers from Jill Spiegel, author of "Flirting for Success: The Art of Building Rapport."
Always be well-groomed. Pay attention to your hair, nails and shoes.
Be gracious. To everyone. Speak calmly and kindly, says Spiegel, the great-great granddaughter of catalog merchant Joseph Spiegel. "Rich people are too well-bred to be rude."
Don't discuss money. People with money don't need to mention what things cost, nor do they appear to care.
Purge the poverty from your life. Hard-core Feng Shui believers will tell you that a plant in a certain place and a mirror in another will bring you lifelong prosperity. (I know because I have "The Feng Shui of Wealth" at home.) All I know is that cleaning out the clutter in your life, moving the furniture so that it feels more harmonious, not only feels good, it forces you to admit that the end table is broken and the lamp shade needs replacing and yes, it's time to buy a new refrigerator. In other words, pay attention to all the ways that poverty has crept into your home -- and make a point of fixing or upgrading each one. Living a life of affluence doesn't mean buying hand-burnished leather couches from Uzbekistan. It means taking the stains out of your carpet, oiling the squeaky door. Living in comfort, ease and beauty. That may not cost much more than elbow grease.

Never pay retail. Given how many discount stores and Web sites there are, it's ridiculous to pay full price for anything. You can dress like Vogue editor Anna Wintour for a fraction of what she pays, just by shopping at Target, which features super-cheap but trendy duds by high fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi.

Other ways to enrich your wardrobe: shop at consignment (aka "secondhand") stores, but only in tony areas. Christine Sparta, a free-lance writer in New Jersey, bought a Christian Dior suit at just such a place for $58. No, I didn't forget a zero.

Learn to work the Web. "If I see a pair of designer shoes at Bloomingdales," says deNicolais, "I know I can find the same exact pair for $50 or $60 less at" I like to go straight to the "clearance" section of my favorite retailers online -- from L.L. Bean to Victoria's Secret to Crate & Barrel. I've gotten amazing deals.

And learn to time your purchases. National retail chains like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and others have a merchandise cycle of about 6 to 8 weeks. After about four weeks of being out on the floor, the chain then rotates full-price items to discounted tables. Keep your eye on the cycle at your favorite stores so that you’re always buying at a discount.

Learn to hobnob. Be part of the society set without a trust fund. Look up charitable events in your area. (Usually they're listed in the local paper, and charities often post their calendars online.) And go schmooze -- I mean, hobnob. Want to attend a benefit for the Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation, featuring performances by Liza Minelli and the New York Pops at schmancy Carnegie Hall? Tickets start at $15.

Make a bid for luxury items. Even upscale auction houses like Christie's or Sotheby's may offer good deals on unique items for your home, and most are free and open to the public for previewing merchandise. You'll want to skip the Italian Renaissance footstools. But sometimes a group of worthwhile items from an estate sale will be sold as a lot, with bids starting as low as $700, says Michel Witmer, an art historian and lecturer in New York. "Auction houses are a treasure trove." Of course, most treasure requires some digging, and arcade sales -- lower-priced auctions at big houses -- are a great place to start if you want furnishings with the air of old money.

Get married, but don't have kids. According to Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in England and something of an expert on the intersection of money and happiness, getting married adds a happiness factor that's equivalent to having $100,000 added to your household income. This is not true of having children, Oswald says. His surveys have found that adding kids to your life (or not having them at all) didn't seem to change people’s happiness one way or the other. Which is good. Kids are expensive, and since most rich people just send theirs away to boarding school anyway, you could argue that the best thing for your Live Cheap, Look Rich lifestyle is not to have the little darlings in the first place.

When you have money and your friends don't
Success with money can sometimes cause financial envy. Here's what to say when strangers demand your net worth and family calls you 'moneybags.'

By Liz Pulliam Weston

If you've got your financial act together at all, you may be the target of financial envy.

Perhaps a friend makes teasing references to you as "moneybags." Coworkers might ask nosy questions about your personal finances. Maybe a relative constantly complains about how much better off you are than she is – or, worse, constantly hits you up for money.

Michael Stahl is only 22, but he gets his share of financial envy. About to graduate from the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the finance major runs a financial education Web site and has written a book on investing for young people called "Early to Rise: A Young Adult's Guide to Investing." He’s been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and been featured in his hometown paper, the Kansas City Star.

Stahl doesn't mind too much when his friends rag him about his supposed wealth or even when a 16-year-old sibling gets pointed references to his "millionaire brother." But it does bug Stahl when total strangers interrogate him about how much money he's made.

"People bring it up, and they’ll keep asking two or three times," Stahl said, even after he’s tried to dodge the initial question. "I'm not a millionaire -- I’m only 22 years old. I just say, ‘I don’t tell anybody that.'"

Somebody is always going to be envious
Financial envy is a fact of life for the wealthy. Who among us hasn't felt a tinge of covetousness while ogling a fancy house, car or boat? But being the target of envy can also be an uncomfortable reality even for the less well-off.

In fact, all you really need to be is a better money manager than some of your friends or relatives, and you can catch flak.

History's 10 greatest entrepreneurs
They excelled in spotting a market opportunity and as a result changed the way people live

By Philipp Harper
Special to

How many entrepreneurs have there been in the history of the world? Millions, certainly, probably even billions. These are the men and women who take capital -- their own or somebody else's -- and use it to beget more capital. Some fail, some succeed, some excel.

With so many candidates to choose from, any list of the 10 greatest entrepreneurs of all time will necessarily be somewhat arbitrary. It will also be top-heavy with Americans, just as a list of great chefs would be disproportionately French or of great eccentrics dominated by the British.

Business is what America does. If that sounds chauvinistic, get over it.

Here, without further ado but with tongue occasionally in cheek, are history's 10 greatest entrepreneurs.

1. King Croesus. A pick by our veterans committee, Croesus, who ruled the Asia Minor kingdom of Lydia in the sixth century B.C., is owed a huge debt of gratitude for minting the world’s first coinage, thereby creating in a single stroke the lifeblood of every business: liquidity and cash flow. Moreover, his opulent lifestyle has given entrepreneurs throughout history something to shoot for. Is there a greater distinction for the commercially inclined than to be deemed "as rich as Croesus"?

2. Pope Sixtus IV. Sixtus gets the nod for realizing that the "wages of sin" meant more than unpleasant repercussions. There was money to be made in damnation, and Sixtus mined it by opening up a new market -- the dead -- for the indulgences the church had been selling for years. Relatives of the deceased quickly filled the Vatican’s coffers with payments intended to lessen the time their loved ones spent in purgatory. In 1478 Sixtus “grew his market” by authorizing the Spanish Inquisition, which swelled purgatory’s ranks by 100,000 souls in 15 years. He also was the first pope to license brothels.

3. Benjamin Franklin. In a real sense, Franklin was America's first entrepreneur. Unlike other of the Founding Fathers -- the hypermoral Washington, the prodigiously intellectual Jefferson -- whose virtues and attainments are seen today as anachronisms, Franklin truly was a model of what many of us would become. Beneath the statesman's mantle resided a popular author, a printer, an inventor (the lightning rod, bifocals) and a very savvy businessman who knew how to commercialize the fruits of his fertile mind.

4. P.T. Barnum. Americans have always loved a good scam and Phineas Taylor Barnum took the art to new heights. He played on our fascination with the bizarre and freakish with sideshow acts ranging from the midget Tom Thumb to Jumbo the giant elephant. In between was a host of more dubious curiosities. He created the Barnum and Bailey Circus as a showcase for all this wonderment, and dubbed it "the Greatest Show on Earth." Along the way he invented modern advertising and became rich. For the record, he never said "There’s a sucker born every five minutes," but he left behind plenty of other bon mots. Among them: "Every crowd has a silver lining."

5. Thomas Edison. What do you say about the man who gave the world the electric light, the phonograph, talking motion pictures and more than 1,300 other patented inventions? That he was the world's greatest inventor, certainly. But he was also able to exploit the profit potential in his creations, an entrepreneurial bent that asserted itself when Edison was a teen-ager, printing a newspaper in the baggage car of a rolling train and then selling copies to passengers. His impact on the way people live was and is pervasive. As a combination of inventive genius and entrepreneurial flair, he stands alone.

6. Henry Ford. Ford also fundamentally changed human lifestyles by making available a vehicle, the Model T, that vastly extended people's range of movement. The automobile would allow America's masses to fulfill their Manifest Destiny to populate every corner of the continent. But his more profound impact was on industry. The moving assembly line he designed to build his cars was the signal breakthrough of the Industrial Age. Appropriately, Ford earned the seed capital for his enterprise by working as an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit.

7. Benjamin Siegel. Known as "Bugsy" to his friends,Siegel was a notorious mobster with a touch of the visionary. Legend has it that he single-handedly invented Las Vegas, and that’s a stretch. But he was the first to see what the town could become: a lush oasis of pleasure where gambling was just one of the attractions. He also proved adept at attracting other people's money to build his iconic resort, The Flamingo. Trouble was, some of those other people belonged to an outfit called Murder Inc., and Siegel was gunned down in 1947 amid rumors he had stolen from his partners. But give the devil his due: Before there was the Bellagio, there was Bugsy.

8. Ray Kroc. Nothing says entrepreneur like persistence, and nothings says persistence like Ray Kroc, the kitchen wares salesman who in 1954, at age 52 and in poor health, had his imagination hijacked by a family-run restaurant in the desert outside Los Angeles. Once he had bought out the McDonald brothers, Kroc proceeded to take their concept of a limited menu, fast service and low prices and expand it nationally, in the process creating the fast-food industry and dramatically affecting America's lifestyle and, sadly, collective health.

9. H. Ross Perot. Within every entrepreneur lurks a touch of the cowboy, and there's no better example of the strain than Perot, the diminutive Texan who has become best known in recent years as a political gadfly. Before that, though, he was all business, using a $1,000 loan from his wife in 1962 to launch Electronic Data Systems. Perot's winning idea was that large corporations and organizations needed data-processing help if they were to take full advantage of computer technology. When in the mid-'60s he won contracts with two new federal health-care programs -- Medicare and Medicaid -- EDS was off and running and Perot was on his way to being one of America's richest citizens.

10. Jobs & Wozniak. Apple Computer's two Steves weren't the first Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to launch a billion-dollar business from a Palo Alto garage -- Hewlett and Packard were there before them -- but they were the first to democratize computing by creating a machine whose use was so wonderfully intuitive that even technophobes embraced it. Combine the elegance of Wozniak’s operating system design with Jobs' marketing savvy (remember Apple's "1984" ad?) and the result was a true phenomenon. Yes, the Apple was eclipsed by the PC, but only after Microsoft (behind the vision of two other notable entrepreneurs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen) developed Windows to ape its rival’s ease of use.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

U2's Bono Finds His Missing Lyrics
The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A long-lost briefcase full of notes and lyrics that were intended for the 1981 U2 album "October" has been returned, 23 years after it was stolen at a Portland concert.

U2 frontman Bono made the announcement Wednesday during an appearance before the World Affairs Council of Oregon, saying the returned notes were "an act of grace."

Bono had to rewrite the "October" lyrics in the studio, and band members called it their worst recording experience.

Though the record was generally well-received, it didn't earn the praise of the band's debut album, "Boy," or third album, "War."

The briefcase was returned by Cindy Harris, 44, who said she found it in the attic of a rental home in Tacoma, Wash., in 1981. She said she did not know the notes had been stolen until many years later, and then she had no idea how to reach the band.

Her friend Danielle Rheaume spent much of the past year contacting U2's management.

According to "Into the Heart," a book of stories about U2 songs, the briefcase was stolen by some women who joined the band backstage at a now-defunct Portland nightclub.

The band returned to Portland a few years after the theft and Bono asked the audience if anyone knew about the briefcase. He repeated the question when the band played at the Rose Garden arena in 2001.

Vacation leads to home makeover by squatter
Stranger greets Georgia woman returning from trip

The Associated Press

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - A woman came home from vacation to find a stranger living there, wearing her clothes, changing utilities into her name and even ripping out carpet and repainting a room she didn’t like, authorities said.

Douglas County authorities say they can't explain why Beverly Valentine, 54, broke into an empty home and started acting like it was her own.

During the 2½ weeks the owner, Beverly Mitchell, was on vacation in Greece, Valentine allegedly redecorated the ranch home, ripping up carpet and taking down the owner's pictures and replacing them with her own.

Mitchell was a complete unknown to Valentine, said Chief Sheriff's Deputy Stan Copeland. He said he had no idea how Valentine knew Mitchell was gone.

"In 28 years, I've never seen something this strange," Copeland said.

Valentine was being held in Douglas County Jail on a $25,000 bond, Copeland said. If convicted, she could face one to 20 years in prison. Copeland said Friday that he believed Valentine did not have a lawyer.

The case came to light when Mitchell, who lived alone, returned home Oct. 4 to find the lights on and a strange car parked in the driveway. Mitchell called police, who went in and found Valentine, who at first pretended she was renting the home.

Later, Copeland said, she admitted she broke into the house with a shovel and was squatting there. She was charged with burglary.

Authorities found a gun and $23,000 worth of Mitchell's jewelry in Valentine's car.

Valentine had the electricity switched over to her name and moved in a washer and dryer and her dog.

Copeland said she was even wearing some of Mitchell's clothes.

"There's a lot of people saying, 'What?"' Copeland said.

Valentine was asked what to do with the washer and dryer she moved in, and Valentine said she didn't care, so police will leave it up to Mitchell what to do with them, Copeland said.

Friday, October 22, 2004

MP3 losing steam?
By John Borland CNET

After years as the unrivaled king of the digital-media world, the venerable MP3 music format is losing ground to rival technologies from Microsoft and Apple Computer.

MP3 is still the overwhelming favorite of file traders, but the once-universal format's popularity has been going quietly but steadily down in personal music collections for the last year. According to researchers at The NPD Group's MusicWatch Digital who track the contents of people's hard drives, the percentage of MP3-formatted songs in digital-music collections has slid steadily in recent months, down to about 72 percent of people's collections from about 82 percent a year ago.

"People are still getting MP3s and putting them on hard drives but are deleting them at a rate faster than they're acquiring them," said Isaac Josephson, a researcher at NPD MusicWatch Digital. "People tend to think that downloads are more disposable than rips (copies from a CD), and currently, the lion's share (of MP3s) are downloads."

The slow shift in MP3's role is part of an ongoing change in the digital-music industry, with the focus moving slowly away from the anarchic file-swapping networks and toward money-making stores and services such as Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Indeed, the big winners over the past year have been the two formats backed by Microsoft and Apple, each of which has gained about 5 percent "hard-drive share" in the past year, according to the ongoing study by NPD MusicWatch Digital. The project surveys the hard-drive contents of 40,000 different people to track Internet and software trends.

Researchers say the data does not show that MP3 is losing much of its popularity--files encoded in the format are just more disposable than rivals. People are still downloading boatloads of MP3 files--but they are discarding them at an even faster rate, the researchers said.

NPD researchers estimate that there was a net loss of about 742 million MP3 files from U.S. hard drives between August 2003 and July 2004, despite people acquiring billions of songs from file-trading networks and their own CDs. By contrast, Windows Media files showed a net gain of 537 million files on U.S. hard drives, Josephson said.

Some analysts say MP3 is evolving into a different role as a format many people use to sample music or keep temporarily, while the rival formats from Apple and Microsoft are being used for permanent digital-music collections.

A separate study, by Net-monitoring company CacheLogic, early this month showed that MP3 still dominates song trading on file-swapping networks.

The company tracked two major ISP networks for two days last weekend and found that MP3 files made up more than 88 percent of all audio files traded, with just 5 percent in Microsoft's format.

Maturing digital-music market
Analysts say the changing patterns of music consumption are a sign that the digital-music market is maturing beyond its Wild West beginnings.

In the years since the rise of Napster, millions of people have swapped billions of songs online, mostly in the MP3 format; though most of that time, the most popular music players also "ripped" music from CDs into the MP3 format.

The rise of music stores such as iTunes has been contributing in part to the growth of these alternative formats--but this trend is still muted.

The sum total of purchases from these stores remain low, compared with the overall consumption of digital music, making up about 3.5 percent of all digital music on hard drives, according to NPD. But iTunes and other services do help push hardware makers to support alternative music formats in their portable music players.

The bigger shift has come as more people have begun building their own digital-music collections by ripping their CDs into files on their computer, analysts say. Many mainstream users, who are less tech-savvy than the early adopters of digital music, use whatever format is built in as the default option in their music software, instead of selecting MP3.

For Microsoft Windows Media Player users, this has helped create Windows Media Audio (WMA) files, leading to a steady increase from 10 percent of the market in March 2003 to about 20 percent today. Apple's iTunes software was released into the Windows market in late 2003, and its default format, AAC, has gained nearly 5 percent of the hard-drive share in just seven months.

"Many consumers ripping (WMA or AAC) may actually think they're ripping into MP3," said Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg.

Analysts say that for the most part, consumers often don't care what format they're using--or even know--as long as it works with their hardware.

Indeed, a March 2004 Jupiter Research study on portable devices found that MP3 remained far more important in consumers' minds than any other format but that most weren't thinking about formats at all.

About 20 percent of people in the study said MP3 support was important to them when selecting a portable media device, while just 7 percent said support for Microsoft's WMA was important. Close to zero percent said AAC, the file format supported by Apple's iPod and iTunes, was essential to them.

One thing remains clear, however: Even if its usage patterns are changing, MP3 remains the one necessary format for hardware and software companies.

Some big companies that have resisted this notion for years are finally adapting to the MP3 world.

Last month, Sony confirmed that it would at last let its digital music players support the MP3 format directly, instead of making consumers convert their files into Sony's own proprietary ATRAC format.

Microsoft also recently added the ability to rip CDs into the MP3 format to its new Windows Media Player, after years of sending users to third-party plug-ins if they wanted to make MP3s.

Analysts say those moves are recognition that consumers demand MP3 support,even as they're experimenting with other options.

"As far as we can see, there are no devices without MP3 support," said Henri Linde, vice president of new business and licensing for Thomson, which oversees MP3 patents. "I've been told for 10 years that MP3 is going to die in six months. We're still waiting."